Top tips for flight bookings

Airline tickets are an attractive area for fraudsters. Fraudsters will often offer fares that are a lot lower than their competitors which can be a warning sign. It is important to remember to look for whether the agent is an IATA license holder – the majority are and if so they are required to issue tickets immediately on full payment so, insist on being emailed as soon as you have paid – preferably by credit card. A few agents do buy in legitimate tickets from other companies which will have an ATOL license – ask for a confirmation invoice from the ATOL holder supplying the ticket.  In both cases full details of the flights and itinerary should be shown along with a six digit number (the PNR – Passenger Name Record) –  which is the unique id for your flight reservations – check this to make sure your ticket is genuine.

Applying for a visa or passport – don’t pay ‘extra’!

Visas are required for many countries around the world for a fee and are usually available online. Many official looking websites will charge you an additional fee whilst adding nothing of value to the process, so always go to the official government website to avoid these extra fees. The correct addresses can be found on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s travel advice. This is also a problem for UK passport applications so always go to: www.gov.uk/apply-renew-passport when applying for or renewing your passport.

Case study: Garth - Liverpool

Garth was searching for online flight deals when he stumbled across a website. He rang them enquiring about the deal, and the company got back to him over email and phone. After some alterations to the flight times and dates, both Garth and the company settled on a final itinerary and booking reference number with British Airways. Garth gave his debit card details over the phone and they took two separate payments out.

A red flag was raised when 2000 USD was taken out of his account shortly after. He phoned Santander to find out more, and according to his statement, the company that took the money was Seven Star Book Company registered in Massachusetts USA. Garth immediately thought the transaction was fraudulent, but Santander said to wait because it may be legitimate.

Shortly after, another transaction went through for 728 USD to another company. He tried calling the company but their phone number no longer worked. The last email he had received after he questioned them about his money and tickets was answered by saying that they were updating the website and to ring the same number - but that still didn't work.

In the final email correspondence, there was still no word on whether they would send the tickets. When he rang the registered office building for the site, he was told that Cheapairs.com does not exist, and there was no record that the company ever existed at all. Garth still hasn’t heard from the company, despite his continuing efforts to reach them and try and get his money back. He is left with no tickets, £1,751 worth of debt, and he’s had to cancel his holiday. Santander have raised a dispute which might result in some money back, but this could take months.